Since we’ve started our travel blog, a pattern has emerged with the timing of our posts: First, we hit the road, blogging three to five times per week about our trips. Then, after a few weeks on the road, we return to New England and go quiet for a while. Our silence is usually because our time in New England is filled with chores, errands, and visits with family and friends. It’s not all fun and games, though…someone has to wash my stinky running gear!
We followed this same pattern after returning from our last trip to Virginia and Tennessee. Now that we’ve been back in New England for a couple of weeks, it seemed about time to get back on the wagon and get some new posts published. Of course, we leave for Europe next week, which should make for much more interesting posts than picking up dry cleaning, going to the bank and organizing our gear in storage. Stay tuned!
For now, I wanted to put a little context around an activity that will color all of our upcoming travel for the next few months. Running! I know…I know…how is this different than any other trip? Well, it’s time for marathon training! It’s almost the end of Week 2 of my 18 week training plan for the Mount Desert Island (MDI) Marathon in Maine. The marathon is Sunday, October 14th, just a couple of days after my birthday, and we’ll be spending the weekend in Bar Harbor for the event.
The race is an important milestone for me, since it will be my first marathon since I started running in late 2009. In addition, it takes place in a location that is very important for J and me. We got married on Mount Desert Island in Northeast Harbor in 2011, and (as you may know from some of our prior posts) we returned to the area this year to celebrate our first anniversary. Not only is MDI beautiful, but it carries a huge amount of sentimental value.
Anyone who has run a long race or marathon before knows that you don’t just show up to compete. You have to train. And anyone who knows me knows that I like to train hard. It’s rare for a race to go by where I haven’t set and trained for an aggressive time goal (aggressive for me anyway), and the MDI marathon is no different. I’m pushing to finish the race in under 4 hours, with a target pace of 8:30 to 8:45 per mile. I’ve run faster than this in prior races, but never anything longer than a half marathon. Also, in addition to being voted the most scenic marathon in America and runner-up for best overall marathon, the MDI marathon is hilly. One blogger who ran the race reported his GPS watch showing 1,700 feet in elevation gain over the 26.2 miles and just as much in elevation loss.
I’m loosely following a Hal Higdon training plan. Higdon is a widely respected runner and author who has been helping runners succeed longer than I’ve been alive. I chose his Novice 2 plan, since it is a little more aggressive than Novice 1. I’ve not run a marathon before, so I stayed away from the intermediate training plans. In a nutshell, the plan increases your training mileage and the length of your longest weekly run week-over-week for 18 weeks leading into the race. There are some lower mileage weeks built into the plan for recovery after the longest of the training runs, and a taper period (period of rest and recovery) for the two to three weeks leading into the race. The plan also designates the pace of each run, with several runs being completed at the desired marathon race pace (“at pace”). The longest training run on the plan is 20 miles, and for me it will take place in late September about three weeks before race day.
So far, my adherence to the structure of the training plan has been less than perfect. I have gotten in all of my training, but it has required some substitutions and schedule changes due to travel and other activities. Here’s how Weeks 1 and 2 have gone so far, with the yellow representing what’s left this week:
I moved my long run up this week because we’re running a 5K race on Saturday (part of our goal of running a race per month in 2012). I also substituted some hikes for runs in Week 1 because we were in the White Mountains and the weather was fantastic. I was comfortable with these adjustments in the early weeks of the plan, since the mileage is in my comfort zone of 15 to 25 miles per week. As the plan continues, I need to buckle down. Given the demands of the plan, I don’t want to risk injury due to over-training . Also, since the plan is designed to provide enough rest leading into the longest run of the week and enough recovery after, it’s important that I stick to the prescribed schedule to avoid getting hurt or falling short on the important long training runs.
This will make for some scenic, interesting and challenging runs in upcoming Weeks 3 and 4, since I’ll be traveling in Germany and the Czech Republic! We will be visiting with family and friends for my cousin’s wedding before taking the train to Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden and Prague. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Europe, practicing my less-than-stellar German and, of course, logging some international marathon training miles! – M
It’s been a week of milestones: selling the house, hitting 50,000 miles with Sal the Subaru, and today, celebrating our anniversary. Last year, we snuck away to Bar Harbor to get married, and this year, we returned to town to celebrate the conclusion of a crazy first year while kicking off a new one. We’re staying in the same room at the same inn, one with delicious breakfasts and cozy beds, and we’re enjoying the relative calm of a resort town before the summer season begins. The weather has been perfect these past two days, and since we’re expecting rain later this week (while we’re camping, of course…), we’ve been playing outdoors every day. Today’s adventure was a 20-mile bike trek across two loops of the carriage roads we hadn’t done last year, plus one we had. We left from the Eagle Lake parking lot and headed north around the Witch Hole Pond loop. It was an easy, rolling start to the day, followed by a moderate climb to some fantastic island views. We then cruised back to the start of Aunt Betty Pond loop, a strenuous 6-mile section that managed to be uphill in both directions. After returning via the Eagle Lake loop, we were sitting at 18.3 miles, so we pushed our tired legs a bit more to reach the 20-mile mark. Along the way, I experimented a bit with video of our ride. Maybe someday I’ll graduate to a helmet cam, but for now, I’m using a handheld one, which can be a little bumpy (so don’t watch if you get dizzy easily…). The first clip was shot along a flat stretch and contains a brief narrative. The second one is a bit longer, with very little narrative, lots of wind and a bit of speed. I had the camera in my right hand, which is also my braking hand, so not my brightest move. Hopefully the video gives a little insight into what it feels like to fly down a gravel mountain at 20-miles per hour… -J
After a five-week break to sort out things on the domestic front, we’re pleased to report that our National Park road trip is back on track! This week’s destination: Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. We first visited the park last spring just for a weekend, and we’ve returned this year for an extended stay. We’ll spend four nights at a cozy B&B in downtown Bar Harbor and then an additional four nights at a campground within the park.
Acadia National Park was the first park established east of the Mississippi River. It is also notable for the fact that its designation as a park was spearheaded by local residents, many of whom (like George Dorr and the Rockefellers) were wealthy owners of summer homes on the island. Today, a handful of private residences are still scattered throughout the park, and sections of the famous carriage roads on private land abutting the park are off-limits to bicyclists. I’m not sure of the behind-the-scenes land politics, but as a casual visitor, it seems the public-private boundaries enjoy an easy coexistence.
We hadn’t been on our bikes in several months, so before heading out to tackle 20 or 30 (or more!) miles of road, we opted to start with a short 10-mile loop between Northeast Harbor and Jordan Pond. Although there are more than 40 miles of carriage roads to explore, it’s pretty hard to get lost. Roads are well-marked with numbered signposts that also include directional signage for popular park destinations like Jordan Pond House or Eagle Lake. The Park Service also provides a carriage road map that indicates mileage between signs.
Those of you who haven’t been to Acadia might share my initial romantic vision that carriage roads are pleasant and flat, probably made of packed dirt or maybe even paved. They are not. While they are indeed pleasant, they are the opposite of flat. They are groomed with crushed gravel (which can be loose and slippery under mountain bike tires) and they rise and fall repeatedly, climbing and descending hundreds of feet depending on the route you select.
Today’s route was a new stretch of trail for us, and the climb started immediately from the parking lot. Although our legs and lungs are well-conditioned from running, we were winded and weary at the top of some of today’s hills, quads burning. But the rewards were worth the effort. We enjoyed sunny skies, sweeping vista, secret streams, and of course…speeding downhill while grinning like kids, trying not to lose complete control of our bikes or eat facefuls of gravel. In that way and many others, the day was a great success. And it’s only Day 1! –J.
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” –Janis Joplin (courtesy Kris Kristofferson, et. al.)
And we now—officially, after months of planning and hoping and maneuvering—have very little left to lose. As of noon today, we sold the house and hit the road without an address. To clarify, we have a P.O. Box where mail will be forwarded, but we do not have a physical address. We are voluntarily homeless (which brings with it a number of sociological issues which J. plans to discuss in a future post, naturally.) (Insert shout out to anyone who has agreed to host us during the next three months…)
Over the past few days, we’ve both been singing Janis Joplin’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee” while working to move our stuff into storage, sell the house, and take the final step toward freedom. During this time, music has been a critical factor in our sanity and our motivation. We’ve bee-bopped around the house: packing, cleaning, moving, and singing. We’ve raged and hip-hopped and rocked and sung the blues. Throughout the process, the lyrics of “Me and Bobby McGee” proved to be especially relevant: “Freedom’s just another word for / nothing left to lose.” They were sung quietly while carrying trash bags to the garage, belted out in the shower while we scrubbed off the basement grime, and hummed while packing boxes of stuff we wondered if we really needed.
Yet Janis isn’t the only one who’s been keeping us company. Adam Ezra understood why we were “Takin’ Off Today.” Air Traffic Controller knew that all of the hoops we’ve been jumping through were “just a test / test 1, 2, 3…” And The Hold Steady explained that “we were young and we were so in love / and I guess we just needed space.”
But perhaps Modest Mouse captured it best: “I know that starting over is not what life’s about / but my thoughts were so loud I couldn’t hear my mouth.” It’s not often that you change most (or all!) of the key components of your life, but sometimes your thoughts are too loud to ignore. We’ve changed so much with our physical and professional and personal selves that this financial transition out of the house seemed natural. It was necessary to complete our journey into a place of total flexibility.
We have no idea what the future will bring, but for now, being on the road—traveling, reading, experiencing life and writing—is good enough… “good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.” -M&J